A pilot program in Volusia County, Florida allows thirty-five children to remain home with their families instead of being removed as a result of abuse or neglect.
The new Family In-Home Recovery Support Team (FIRST) program concentrates on providing intensive in-home services to just seventeen families at this time.
Volusia is one of two Florida counties with especially high numbers of abuse reports and rates of removal. Volusia also experienced significant increases in removals last year despite a statewide campaign to reduce them.
Cases suitable for the FIRST program may involve domestic violence and substance abuse, but probably not sexual abuse or aggravated domestic violence. Homes posing the greatest risks to children are not appropriate for this new program.
The program works by teaming up a therapist with a social worker from a third party organization for several visits per week to daily visits to troubled homes for about four months.
An additional hoped-for benefit of the intensive in-home services program is that it may reduce burnout and turnover of caseworkers. It is thought that the constant stress of removing children from their homes is a prime reason for both.